International negotiation styles: a perspective of Malaysian diplomats
Mohd Hashim, Hishamuddin
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Negotiation competency is an important focus of all countries as negotiation is a core event in international relations and diplomacy. Malaysia is no exception. Existing literature indicates that there has never been any research to study the Malaysian practice in international negotiations. As far as diplomatic negotiation is concerned, there is also a dearth of literature on what is going on at the negotiation table due to its secretive nature. Most of the research conducted on negotiation has originated from Western concepts of negotiation, and there is a lack of research concerning non-Western and specifically Malaysian notions of negotiation. A number of studies have been carried out to identify negotiation styles of some countries in Asia, and research on Malaysian negotiation is merely a descriptive explanation of Malaysians’ business negotiation behaviour. Furthermore, there is a growing need of research that employs varieties of methods in studying negotiation as most of the overseas studies were quantitative in nature. Thus, researching into the Malaysian practice of international negotiation will help to close the gaps in the literature because: (1) it will address the lack of research on Malaysian negotiating styles from the viewpoint of the public sector, as opposed to the business sector; (2) it will extend the work on non-Western perspectives on diplomatic negotiation by injecting Malaysian notions of international negotiation, as seen by Malaysians; (3) it will enrich the current literature on negotiating styles of countries in Asia; (4) it will add to the small amount of international scholarship on diplomatic negotiation and (5) this research will employ a mixed-method approach, and this will complement the need to employ varieties of research methods in negotiation research. The main aim of this research is to explore and highlight the key features of Malaysian negotiating practice in international negotiations from the perspectives and experiences of Malaysian diplomats. This research adopted a mixed-methods approach. An interpretive approach with some elements of phenomenology, symbolic interactionism and systems theory was the main paradigm adopted for the qualitative study while a questionnaire survey was employed for the quantitative study. Key-informant interviews with 22 former diplomats were conducted and a survey of 39 respondents amongst in-service Malaysian diplomats was successfully carried out. The research contributes to understanding of Malaysian negotiating practice in international negotiations and generates important insights for diplomatic training providers in setting-up relevant training modules. It also helps negotiators from different nations to comprehend the negotiation practice of Malaysia and helps to eliminate stereotyping and biases. In addition, since international negotiation is a universal phenomenon, the findings of this study are not only applicable to Malaysia but to other nations as well. Important key and relevant points that could contribute to international negotiation knowledge were identified and discussed. Finally, based on the research, policy recommendations were proposed to enhance negotiation competency in any international negotiation, and future research was identified and suggested for the benefit of international negotiation knowledge and scholarship.